Greek PM defends vote, demands 30% debt haircut

ATHENS - Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday defended a weekend referendum he hopes will reset bailout negotiations and demanded creditors forgive a third of the country's debt and allow delayed repayments for the rest.

Sunday's plebiscite is "a time of responsibility and democracy meant to silence the sirens of destruction," Tsipras said in a national television address.

He rejected EU leaders' assertions that his decision last week to curtail debt talks with the creditors - the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank - and call the vote risked Greece's eurozone or EU membership.

"Rejecting an unsustainable agreement does not mean a break with Europe," he said.

"We will face a common future on Monday and we will not allow anything to divide us." Tsipras, who leads the radical left Syriza party that governs Greece in a ruling coalition, called for creditors to accept "a 30 percent haircut" on the country's massive mountain of debt.

He said he also wants a 20-year "grace period" on repaying the rest.

The country's total debt load stands at a staggering 323 billion euros (S$482 billion), three-quarters of it owed to its 'troika' of creditors.